A Harvard professor has come up with a device that helps people inhale their caffeine from a lipstick-sized tube. Critics say the novel product, called “AeroShot,” is not without its risks. The product went on the market late last month in Massachusetts and New York, and is also available in France. A single unit costs $2.99 at convenience, mom-and-pop, liquor and online stores.
Biomedical engineering professor David Edwards said AeroShot is safe and does not contain common additives, like taurine, used to amplify the caffeine effect in common energy drinks. Each grey-and-yellow plastic canister contains 100 milligrams of caffeine powder, about the amount in a large cup of coffee, plus B vitamins.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review AeroShot, saying he fears it will be used as a club drug so that young people can drink until they drop. Schumer's national press secretary did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey declined to comment, saying the agency will respond directly to Schumer on the matter.
Edwards said Schumer's comments are understandable in the context of developments over the last few years, when students looking for a quick and cheap buzz began consuming caffeine-packed alcoholic drinks they dubbed “blackout in a can” because of their potency. But he said AeroShot is not targeting anyone under 18 and it safely delivers caffeine into the mouth, just like coffee. “Even with coffee — if you look at the reaction in Europe to coffee when it first appeared — there was quite a bit of hysteria,” he said. “So anything new, there's always some knee-jerk reaction that makes us believe 'Well, maybe it's not safe.'”
Once a user shoots a puff of calorie-free AeroShot into his or her mouth, the lemon-lime powder begins dissolving almost instantly. Each single-use container has up to six puffs. “The act of putting it in your mouth is the act of breathing — so it's sort of surprising and often people the first time they take the AeroShot, they laugh ... that it's kind of a funny way of putting food in your mouth,” said Edwards, who also came up with a breathable chocolate product a few years back.
Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, a gastroenterologist and internal medicine doctor at New York-based St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, said people need to be aware of how much caffeine they are ingesting. “You want those 10 cups of coffee, it will probably take you a couple hours to get through all that coffee with all that volume that you are drinking,” Ganjhu said. “With these inhale caffeine canisters you can get that in 10 of those little canisters — so you just puff away and you could be getting all of that within the hour.”
“AeroShot can be used in a variety of settings inconvenient for liquids, such as when you study in the library, board an airplane or get into the car for a long drive,” they say in the section dedicated to frequently asked questions on their website. “It’s easy to take AeroShot with you when you go biking, skiing, curling, or any other activity that consumes energy.” Even the product packaging warns people not to consume more than three AeroShots per day.
“In my view, frequent use of caffeine inhalers has the potential to lead to abuse,” Dr. Robert Glatter, emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthPop. Glatter said too much caffeine could be dangerous too, causing heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia. People who take in more than 8,000 milligrams of caffeine - the contents of 80 inhalers - could even have a lethal overdose from ventricular fibrillation, a lethal cardiac rhythm, he said. “Significant public education is paramount in order avert dangerous outcomes,” Glatter said.